The Pembroke Daily Observer
Father Dan Miller’s only words on Thursday morning before learning that he will spend the next nine months in prison were “just that I’m very sorry.”
The statement was made before Justice Timothy Ray delivered his sentencing decision, the last chapter in a legal saga that began in February of last year when the disgraced Catholic priest was charged with six counts of indecent assault. One of the charges was subsequently dropped by the crown.
Miller sat, expressionless, as Ray delivered his decision, outlining the basic elements of the case, which surrounds several incidents dating back to the 1970s, all against altar boys aged 9-13.
In his decision, Ray detailed the aggravating factors in the case, reiterating the position of trust, authority and confidence that Miller held with the families of his victims, the specific nature of the incidents in levels of detail that drew audible reaction from the crowded gallery, and the fact that Miller has never taken absolute and unqualified responsibility for his actions. He also did mention that a mitigating factor was that Miller did enter a guilty plea, which spared his victims the trauma of reliving their experiences in a trial context, although Ray quickly noted that the guilty plea was only entered after the victims had already had to deliver victim impact statements in discovery.
According to Ray, the Criminal Code of Canada allows for a maximum sentence of 10 years, but that when issuing a sentence, judges were also forced to consider the context of sentences handed down in similar cases that involved similar circumstances.
He left no doubt, however, that he considered the arguments of Miller’s legal counsel, who had requested a conditional sentence in lieu of time spent behind bars, absolutely unacceptable given the egregious nature of Miller’s actions.
In 1999, Miller wrote a letter of apology to the family of one of his victims, and immediately following two of the assaults, he made his victims promise not to tell anyone what had happened because “he could get in trouble,” facts that Ray said severely undermined Miller’s repeated assertions that he wasn’t aware that what he’d done was overly serious or severe, and that it had just been a slight over-step “during tickling episodes.”
All but one of the attacks happened in the upstairs bedroom of Miller’s mother’s home in Renfrew while he was on overnight trips with the boys, and, contrary to Miller’s own assertion, Ray categorized them as having been meticulously planned and absolutely premeditated, with Miller having gained the trust of the families, and usually having taken his victims, along with groups of other children, on trips before taking them one-on-one.
Ultimately, the nine-month sentence given was at the highest end of that sought by the crown in the case, and was paired with a three-year probationary period, an order that Miller provide a DNA sample to the court, stay away from any male under the age of 18, not be anywhere near parks or other places where children would be likely to congregate for the next 20 years and have his name placed on the sex offenders registry for the rest of his life.
Although this case is now concluded, Miller’s legal troubles are far from over. He faces two new charges of gross indecency and his lawyer will be back in court on Jan. 16 to start those proceedings.
Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist.
Follow him on Twitter @PRyanPaulsen.